DAVID BEZMOZGIS WINS REFORM JUDAISM PRIZE FOR JEWISH FICTION Natasha: And Other Stories Wins Praise of Distinguished Judges
Nov. 4, 2004--David Bezmozgis, a 31-year-old Canadian author, has won the 2004 Reform Judaism Prize for Jewish Fiction for Natasha: And Other Stories (Farrar, Straus & Giroux), his debut collection of short stories.
Bezmozgis will receive a $5,000 award during a special presentation at the New York headquarters of the Union for Reform Judaism and will also be featured in the Spring 2005 edition of Reform Judaism, which has the largest circulation of any Jewish publication in the world.
The judges also named two finalists for the 2004 prize: Michael Andre Bernstein, for his novel Conspirators (Farrar, Straus & Giroux); and Naama Goldstein, for The Place Will Comfort You (Scribner).
The Reform Judaism Prize for Jewish Fiction was created in 2003 by Dr. Alexander Mauskop, a Larchmont, NY neurologist, to encourage promising Jewish fiction writers. To qualify, a writer must be a resident of the United States or Canada and have written a novel or short story collection in English on a Jewish theme.
Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel serves as honorary chair of the prize committee. The judges were Sanford Pinsker, Shadek Professor of Humanities at Franklin and Marshall College; Janet Burstein, Drew University professor and author of a forthcoming book on contemporary American Jewish fiction; and Dara Horn, who won both the 2003 Reform Judaism Prize and the 2003 National Jewish Book Award for her novel, In The Image.
Natashais a collection of short stories that center on the character of Mark Berman, who, like Bezmozgis himself, emigrated with his parents from Latvia to Toronto in 1980. The tales trace the Bermans sometimes-awkward progress in adapting to North American life and Marks journey from childhood to maturity. From his outsiders perspective, Bezmozgis ruminates on the multiple meanings of what it is to be a Jew, an alien, and a North American.
Natasha is a moving, delicate, sometimes shocking, and always carefully crafted work of art about the collision of worlds Jewish, Soviet, North American, and more importantly, the worlds of childhood and adulthood, said Horn. Bezmozgis brings his readers into the space between these worlds and refuses to let them go.
Natasha was published in June 2004 to rave reviews from the Jewish and national press. Publishers Weekly wrote that Bezmogis writes with subtlety and control rendering the immigrant experience with powerful specificity of character, place and history. These complex, evocative stories herald the arrival of a significant new voice. The New York Times Book Review commented that Bezmozgis has an authority one usually finds only in more seasoned writers.
The Union for Reform Judaism (formerly the Union of American Hebrew Congregations) is the central body of Reform Judaism in North America, uniting 1.5 million Reform Jews in more than 900 synagogues. Union services include camps, music and book publishing, outreach to unaffiliated and intermarried Jews, educational programs, and the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism in Washington, DC.